From H. Leroy Whiteley Jr., founder, Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation:
IT’S NOT TOO LATE????!
Support Passage of HB 789 Internet Access to Worksheets And HB 881 Property Review Task Force
WE NEED YOUR HELP TO BRING THESE ISSUES TO THE FLOOR FOR ACTION.
HB 789 Internet Access to Worksheets would give us unlimited access to SDAT worksheets for comparative purposes WITHOUT having to file an assessment appeal.
HB 881 Property Review Task Force would create a task force to study an property assessment and appeals system documented to be in shambles costing every jurisdiction and its taxpayers untold millions of dollars.
Recent Sunpapers articles have defined the continuing, expanding ills of an archaic, biased, flawed, highly subjective, inequitable, non-uniform, and unfair assessments and appeals system.
These articles have cited millions in Baltimore City homestead credits misapplied, high rollers purchasing condos at $12 million but being assessed at about $2 million, projections of over $300 million in low assessments compared to sales prices in a single City building, and over $80 million difference in actual sales versus assessed base in Harford County verified by the County Treasurer.
Analyses of 8100 properties by an independent firm found one-third of the properties to be over or under assessed by 20 to 50%
The Director of Assessments and Taxation calls these problems “errors” created by the loss of his assessor staff down from 280 to 158.
We have advocated the need for this task force study for years to help solve these problems. SDAT says they are doing a good job and say no study is necessary. Their own facts show otherwise. Look at the errors and numbers of appeals. We know sophisticated automated systems exist or can be derived to provide solutions. Today’s appeals system limits the taxpayer to arguing property values based solely on actual market sales against an assessment system derived from construction costs. Since sales values are by law the value of comparison why not base the whole system on current sales data matching actual market conditions?
Director Young testified in opposition to SB 215 Internet Access to Worksheets that providing a searchable base would cost $200, 000 and a 40-year old law prevented his doing so. His rationale was that taxpayers must first file an appeal to obtain copies of comparable worksheets. He states this is done to protect taxpayers’ privacy!!!! A week later that 40 year old law became 43 years and the $200,000 cost became $940,000??
What is on the worksheets that are really private? The only information is the detailed calculation of value of things like the dwelling, decks, pools, AC, piers, garages, etc whose collective value is shown on the Real Property Search data sheets as “Improvements”.
Director Young testified that SDAT already provides all of this information on its “Real Property Search website. SDAT has sold all of their worksheets for their over 2 million residential properties to commercial enterprises like SpecPrint.com who market all of these records for $115 to $225 per jurisdiction for all of the State’s 24 jurisdictions. Over 13 million commercial records are also listed for sale on their web site.
We need Director Young explain how our privacy is protected by those actions.
We need Director Young to explain why his appeals process is backed up for months with over 100,000 annual first level and over 60,000 second level appeals. We need to know how it is possible that only 1000 to 3000 worksheets are requested.
Young reports his staff cannot perform physical inspections, maintain records and keep up with current market conditions as is mandated by his enabling law.
Hearings have been completed but committee votes as of today may not have been made. You can make a difference. Unfortunately, we are headed toward getting what we deserve NOTHING?? We say that because we obviously do not care about any of these issues since most have done little or nothing to support them. We witnessed one delegate introduce her bill on watershed protection and proudly announce she had 700 e-mails in support of her proposed legislation. Conversely, when we check the packages the committee members are given for documentation and review of our bills, we find that other than testimony from the few of us that show up to testify we see only one letter from Harford County Executive David Craig and one supportive email. SDAT and some of the county governing bodies submitted opposing letters and verbal testimony.
It is hard for us to fathom that the majority of property taxpayers are so well off, or so satisfied to be fleeced by an agency that openly admits it has problems allowing millions of dollars in homestead credits to be falsely obtained, to have millions of dollars in reduced assessments granted to high rollers, to have millions of dollars of erroneous assessments to exist because their staff is ill equipped to perform the work the law mandates they are to do to make assessments equitable, uniform, and equal to fair market value or to correct assessments that an independent firm randomly evaluated and found over one third of them to be over or under assessed by 20 to 50 percent.?? More likely we are just too apathetic to care or to take the time to contact those who supposedly represent us. You must realize we do not send legislators to Annapolis and ask them to do our bidding without letting them know how we want them to act. It is called INTERACTION and we need to do more of it??
We urge everyone to phone, write or e-mail the Ways and Means Chair Hixson and Vice Chair Rosenberg and committee members as well as your respective legislators asking for support of these bills. Committee e-mail addresses are in this format followed by @house.state.md.us
If you agree or disagree with any of the actions defined herein we urge you to express those views to your legislators. That is the only democratic way to conduct the State’s and taxpayers’ business. IT IS YOUR DUTY TO DO SO. LET’S ALL DO IT!!!!
Remember Nothing Happens Unless We Make it Happen??
Roy Whiteley, Founder